A co-author with the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, of a new book on climate change has urged Theresa May, the UK prime minister, to challenge Donald Trump on the issue. The book is formally launched on 27 January, the day that May and Trump are to meet.
Emily Shuckburgh, a dynamical oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey, said early signs from the new US president had “raised alarm bells”, and it was vital that May highlighted the opportunities as well as the challenges posed by global warming.
“The climate is changing, that’s what the data says. You can have all the alternative facts in the world, but you are not going to get around that,” said Dr Shuckburgh, who is also a fellow of Darwin College at the University of Cambridge.
The new US president, who in 2012 described climate change as a hoax, has in recent days further shaken climate scientists and those who depend on them by telling the US Environmental Protection Agency to remove the page on global warming from its website.
He has also chosen a leading oilman, Rex Tillerson, as his secretary of state, and says he wants to promote more oil drilling on federal land. Trump’s meeting with May is his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign premier since his inauguration.
The science is absolutely clear that the climate is changing, and the dominant cause of the warming we have seen over the last 50 years is human activities. But aligned to that is the fact that responding to the climate challenge is a huge opportunity.
Emily Shuckburgh, oceanographer, British Antarctic Survey
Shuckburgh, who wrote the book with Prince Charles and the former leader of Friends of the Earth-UK, Tony Juniper, says most countries are determined to prepare for a lower carbon world.
May is better placed than most to speak out because the UK has been at the forefront of action to tackle global warming through its groundbreaking Climate Change Act and other initiatives, Shuckburgh says.
“The science is absolutely clear that the climate is changing, and the dominant cause of the warming we have seen over the last 50 years is human activities. But aligned to that is the fact that responding to the climate challenge is a huge opportunity.
“It is an opportunity for innovation and driving new jobs, and for improving the health of many million people around the world, not least those suffering from the effects of air pollution.”
Shuckburgh said that climate change action could improve the quality of life for people in the US, so Trump could look at the issue either in terms of a threat or as an opportunity.
“In both cases it is critically important to highlight the scale of the challenge and the urgency of the challenge. Those are the twin messages that I would want her [May] to relay”, Dr Shuckburgh said.
“From everything I see so far it would appear that Donald Trump is a pragmatic businessman, and looking at this purely through the lens of a business opportunity, it’s quite obvious there is a huge opportunity in a sensible but rapid transition to a low carbon world.
“The early signals have raised alarm bells, but many people have commented that actually the low carbon, clean tech transition is now well established. There was a very large gathering of tech people in San Francisco before Christmas, and there were pictures of a protest outside that struck a chord with me.
“Someone held up a banner saying: ‘Ice does not do politics, it just melts’, and in a way that sums it up: the climate is changing, that’s what the data says. You can have all the alternative facts in the world, but you are not going to get around that.”
This story was published with permission from Climate News Network.